Marriage to John Taaffe

In her thirtieth year, friends began hinting at her it was high time for her to think of marriage. Though not a true beauty in the ordinary acceptation of the word, she undoubtedly had attractive gifts of mind and body, and above all she had a substantial fortune. It is not surprising therefore, that she had many suitors. One of whom was John Taaffe. John had been educated by the English Jesuits and had twice offered himself to the order – first in England and later in Ireland. Though accepted on both occasions, his health proved unequal to the strain of the noviceship. To settle her doubts she proposed that they should make a novena together to St Joseph. The result was that they became engaged, on the understanding that, if a son were born to them, he should be consecrated to God as a Jesuit. In May 1867, they were married.

A year after their marriage Mr. and Mrs Taaffe went for a tour on the Continent. Passing through Southern France and the Riviera, they visited Rome and there made a prolonged stay. Olivia wrote some interesting accounts of her travels….

"I saw the Holy Father quite close and got his blessing which gave me intense pleasure. I was surprised to see him look so well and walk with such vigour. He has such a fine intellectual face. The Noble Guard accompanying him are such fine young men; the Swiss Guard at the Palace wear a very curious uniform. Later we went to the Mazzotti Palace and met Mr. Teeling, who is in the Zouaves and full of spirits. It is supposed the Garibaldians are meditating another attack. This morning we went to the meeting of the Enfants de Marie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and after waiting some time we heard a sermon from one of the Jesuit Fathers on devotion to St. Joseph…"

The Taaffes returned home and settled down at Smarmore Castle. Here Olivia found ample scope for her piety and clarity. The little church, where she worshipped during the thirty-three years of her married life, has many memorials of her piety. Amongst these is a shrine of St. Joseph, Protector of the Holy Souls. Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament prompted her to organise what was then unknown in Ireland but common in France – a Corpus Christi Procession. A pleasing element in the Procession was the school children dressed to represent various saints. Finally, her great work for the Foreign Missions was already beginning to take root; for during her life at Smarmore she never lost an opportunity to help young aspirants to the priesthood.

The Taaffes had only one son, George Robert, born in 1871. A few months after his birth, his parents took him to receive the Holy Father’s blessing. They had not forgotten their promise to make him a Jesuit. The boy, as he grew up, entered with enthusiasm into the wishes and hopes of his pious parents; but he was very delicate as a child and in 1893 he died – a few years after his father.


Charity Number: CHY 1508 -